“It is impossible to read the history of the petty republics of Greece and Italy without sensations of horror and disgust at the distractions with which they were continually agitated, and at the rapid succession of revolutions by which they were kept in a state of perpetual vibration between the extremes of tyranny and anarchy.”–Publius, Federalist Paper No. 9
For those who haven’t heard, Operation American Spring is a group of so-called patriots led by retired Col. Harry Riley, who are planning to demonstrate in Washington on May 16th. Their announced aim is to oust politicians they deem corrupt, and to replace them with politicians they like. OAS is claiming the authority of the Constitution and Declaration to “throw off the bonds” of an unjust government and to redress grievances. There’s just one problem: transferring power by these methods is totally unconstitutional. If we follow this lead, we can forget elections and voter sovereignty.
Any group of citizens can collect in public to air grievances and urge a course of action. They can speak to create a tension in the mind of the community. But OAS can’t claim to be restoring our constitutional republic by inviting ten million people to show up in Washington to throw people out of office outside the electoral process. Be they ten or ten million, no one voted for them to represent America; and they certainly do not represent the Tea Party, which has from the start been a constitutionalist movement. Riley and OAS represent only themselves.
In the Federalist Papers, Publius warned against exactly what OAS is, a faction: “…a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens…” (Federalist Paper No. 10).
The Founders took great pains to create a government that would prevent the changeable passions of a group in frenzy from imposing their will on the rest of the country.
Dr. Mickey Craig of Hillsdale College, puts it succinctly:
The Constitution, while it is a popular government, it is a form of popular government which recognizes the disease of popular government, and has put in place institutional arrangements that will make it less likely that a factious or tyrannical majority will form and lead to the loss of liberty for the country.
Operation American Spring is taking its cues from the populist Occupy and Arab Spring movements. The first brought destruction and anarchy to the streets of New York City and elsewhere. The second lead to the installation of one of the most tyrannical, fanatical leaders in Egypt’s recent history. This is horrifying enough. But they are preying on the well-meaning patriotism of many in the Tea Party movement, trusting that these same folks won’t see that OAS is completely antithetical to how we change power in America.
They are using the genuine and understandable frustrations of patriots who are fed up, citizens who see government out of control and want to do something to bring us back from the brink–from unsustainable debt, a government that won’t enforce our laws, a tyrannical health care policy that infringes on our liberties, and an economy and foreign policy that are in the toilet. They want to do something – something with faster results than our republican form of government allows. So here comes OAS with a call to action, miming Constitutionalism and encouraging the people to rise up and kick the corrupt bastards out via Washington sit-in.
The slow, deliberative nature of our electoral process exists to temper the passions of just such a furious mob with its great potential for violence and anarchy. The Constitution guarantees the peaceful transfer of power through the consent of the governed. It doesn’t matter how many papers OAS submits to Congress to get the Obama administration and John Boehner to resign. They can’t usurp and disregard our electoral process. To do so is to destroy the civil rights of the rest of the country who voted in 2012–and who certainly have a stake in November 2014.
As Publius says in Federalist Paper No. 54, “This constitution will only work if the people choose men of wisdom and virtue to occupy the offices.” Where there are corrupt politicians, it is our duty as citizens to vote them out and vote in better representatives. Where there is voter or election fraud, it is our duty to expose it and to stop it by requiring the same government-issued photo IDs we need to do everything else in our lives. Where millions are persuaded to vote for corrupt politicians and destructive policies, it is our job as citizens to persuade them otherwise. Where these problems are addressed, we can begin to right the ship and save our country–no revolution needed.
Either Col. Riley and OAS are totally ignorant of what they are claiming to represent, or they are deliberately hijacking constitutional patriotism to enact what comes down to a coup – mere months before our next election. Isn’t it ironic that a group claiming to restore our constitutional republic won’t use constitutional methods to do it?
Patriots from coast to coast should soundly reject Operation American Spring for exactly what it is: a tyrannical faction that is illegitimate, destructive, and unconstitutional.
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